Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Red Tower”
By Janis Kunz
I hadn’t heard of, nor had I seen, Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico’s 1913 surrealist painting, “The Red Tower”, until it was used as part of a character moment in the CBS action-drama, “Person of Interest”. The character of Grace, an artist and illustrator, tells of a defining moment she had while in Venice, Italy:
GRACE: “I got to be two feet away from de Chirico’s ‘The Red Tower.’To me, on my first glimpse of it, I found the painting to be drab and sparse. So I was instantly intrigued as to why they had chosen it to be the piece so striking to Grace as to capture her imagination like that. There must be something about it I was missing. It was time to take a closer inspection.
His paintings have that sense of… mystery, of something looming.”
HAROLD: “Yeah, it’s like life is frozen in that moment,
and the universe is about to reveal all its secrets.”
GRACE: “Yes. And it did – in a way.
That’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist.”
A quick trip to Guggenheim.org revealed that de Chirico’s works were an enormous inspiration to Surrealist painters, and that it’s his use of ‘irrational perspective, lack of a unified light source, elongation of shadows, and hallucinatory focus on objects’ that causes the dreamlike quality of his paintings. Plus, the fact that there is no event taking place within the painting can cause a feeling of melancholy or anxiety, as if ‘one senses the wake of a momentous incident’.
Taking these things into account, as well as the characters’ dialog, I studied the painting – with its solitary tower imposing over the entire setting, its heavy use of shadow, its minimal palette, and its stark landscape – and I could see what it was they meant when they spoke of a sense of mystery and looming and an event about to occur. Other paintings by de Chirico’s, like “The Disquieting Muses” and “The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon”, have the same sense of mood.
Now when I look at “The Red Tower”, what had previously seemed drab and sparse, instead spurs my imagination. I feel compelled to fill the spaces, to wish to walk among them. I feel the desire to understand, or even solve, the mystery of that looming event. In essence, I can now look at the painting as Grace had looked at it, with a sense of fascination.
March 16, 2013
Person of Interest fan-art (sort of)
The following essay and reproduction I did for Fine Arts credit. I chose "The Red Tower" because I wanted to explore it so I could better understand it since it was used in my favorite current show.